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Cam Fowler Has The Worst Adjusted +/-

Yesterday I posted the 20 worst players from 2011/12 by adjusted +/- rating.  The worst player last year was Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks who posted a -24.6 adjusted +/-. 

Cam Fowler is no stranger to posting poor puck possession stats.  Last season he posted the worst adjusted Corsi rating in the league.  These numbers show that Fowler has had problems adjusting to NHL play.  That story isn’t one that most fans accept.  Fowler is a future NHL star who has been playing a big role in the NHL as a teenager.  In fact when I wrote about the lack of established elite defencemen today commenter CMo44 listed Fowler as an elite defenceman who is well on his way.

Cam Fowler is a high draft pick.  He was picked 12th overall by Anaheim in 2010 and has been in the NHL since age 18.  He has scored pretty well.  He had 40 points from defence in his rookie year.  He was second in ice time on his team this season.  He has clearly been given a big role on the Anaheim Ducks.  Many interpret this as a sign he is a star.  What people don’t notice is that he is struggling defensively.  When Fowler is on the ice, the other team has the puck and they score more goals than his team does.  Fowler struggles at even strength.  He isn’t ready to play the role that he has been given.  Perhaps he never will be ready.

His main successes come on the power play 34 of his 69 career points have been power play points.  That is essentially half of his career offence.  That fact boosts his offensive numbers enough that people tend not to notice that he isn’t a complete player who struggles at even strength.

The stock argument against these facts that Cam Fowler boosters will immediately pull out is that I must not watch hockey since I am pointing out this problem statistically. I am pointing out a persistent problem in Fowler’s play.  This is a problem that is easy to see if you watch him play.  It is a problem that shows up immediately when you look at him statistically.  It is a problem that runs against the narrative on his career that he is a young star in the making and many people accept the narrative and ignore what their eyes are telling them when they watch the games.

This does not mean that Fowler will never be a good NHL player.  In fact in 2010/11 Erik Karlsson posted the 10th worst adjusted +/- rating (note Fowler at 4th worst).  That is an accurate representation of his defensive problems last season.  Karlsson improved into this season (as young players often do) and is now a Norris Trophy nominee.  Statistics can show how a player is playing right now but there is no reason to believe that he will always continue to play at that level.  Fowler does have hockey skills that make scouts very excited but he hasn’t put it together to be a solid NHL player.  The potential is there.

In order to know what to expect from Cam Fowler, it is helpful to accurately know where he is right now.  He has been a liability to his team defensively.  It is not a coincidence that Anaheim has dropped in the standings as his role on the team has increased.  Fowler is a boy playing against men and the men have schooled him.  In fact if we sort all NHL players by total +/- since the lockout, Fowler comes 18th and he has only played two seasons.

Cam Fowler is a young defenceman.  His story as a top draft pick who has immediately jumped into a big role in the NHL makes many think he is already an NHL star.  He isn’t.  He has been a liability to his team.  He does have a lot of potential and might improve as he grows into his NHL career.  However right now he is not a star defenceman despite what many want to believe.

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He should have learned the defensive game in the AHL first.  He may be ruibed now.

Posted by 13 user names on 06/16/12 at 05:32 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

You mention a possible counterargument concerning your use of statistics, and the possibility that you would form a different opinion. You make two good points in that whether or not Fowler develops into a better all-around player in the future, currently his puck possession stats are not good at even strength, and that his offensive ability is strong but his defensive ability may not be NHL level. I think, however, that you fail to address, first, that he may be playing in a defensive role that is too difficult for him, which may not be fixable due to lack of quality defensemen on Anaheim’s roster, a problem you frequently mention, and second, what it is about watching him play that makes it clear that he is a liability.

Posted by EDJ on 06/16/12 at 10:10 PM ET


He should have learned the defensive game in the AHL first.  He may be ruibed now.

Drafted out of the CHL, he wasn’t eligible for AHL duty. It was CHL or NHL for Fowler these last two years.

Posted by Ralph on 06/17/12 at 02:53 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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